Kristin Otto (GDR)
Honor Swimmer (1993)
FOR THE RECORD: 6 WORLD RECORDS: 100m freestyle (1), 200m freestyle (1), 400m freestyle relay (2), 400m medley relay (1), 800m freestyle relay (1); OLYMPIC GAMES: 1984 (boycott), 1988 gold (50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 100m backstroke, 100m butterfly, 400m medley relay, 400m freestyle relay); WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1982 gold (100m backstroke, 400m freestyle relay, 400m medley relay), 1986 gold (100m freestyle, 200m individual medley, 400m freestyle relay, 400m medley relay), silver (50m freestyle, 100m butterfly); EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1983 gold (400m freestyle relay, 800m freestyle relay), silver (100m freestyle); 1987 gold (100m backstroke, 100m butterfly, 100m freestyle, 400m freestyle relay, 400m medley relay); 1989 gold (100m backstroke, 400m medley relay); NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 18 (1979-1989).
Known as the “Queen of Seoul,” Kristin Otto of the German Democratic Republic became the first woman to win six gold medals in any sport at the 1988 Olympic Games — setting a world record for the 100 meter freestyle.
Otto’s wins in 100 meter backstroke and butterfly, the 400 and 100 meter freestyle, the 400 meter freestyle relay and the 400 meter medley relay, gave her the second greatest Olympic gold medal count at one Olympic Games in history to Mark Spitz’s seven gold medals at the 1972 Games in Munich. Spitz had an advantage, however, the men swam three relay events and the women only two. Perhaps, if there had been a third relay for women, she’d have won that, too.
Otto broke into the international scene with gold medal swims at the 1982 World Championships in the 100 meter backstroke, the 400 meter freestyle relay and 400 meter medley relay.
The boycott of 1984 kept her from competing in her first Olympic Games, so she went to the 1986 World Championships in Madrid and won the 100 meter freestyle, 200 meter I.M., and two relays, in addition to taking close seconds in the 50 meter freestyle and 100 meter butterfly. Next year, at the 1987 European Championships, she won the 100 meter butterfly, backstroke, and freestyle as well as three relays.
As Kristin finished her college studies in early 1988, she did very little training, explaining her sub-par performances at her country’s Olympic Trials. But she surprised the world and herself at the Games in Seoul by winning six events–the biggest surprise being her win in the 50 meter freestyle. However, her success created a bit of a dilemma for the coaches as they wondered what stroke she should swim on the 400 meter medley relay, since she had already won the 100 meter butterfly, backstroke and freestyle. It was decided that Kristin would lead off with the backstroke–and, the GDR won in Olympic record time.
Kristin swam in the German Democratic Republic during a time which was filled with international consternation and supposition as to the use of performance-enhancing additives. She had emerged from this period and gone on to achieve some of her world performances under the international surveillance of athletic monitoring.
Doping Disclaimer: In a German court of law, after this swimmer was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, team officials confessed to administering performance enhancing drugs to this swimmer, who therefore obtained an illegal and unfair advantage over other athletes. For more information, click here.